Scalloped parapet towers over the bizarre Byben & Skeens studio in Los Angeles

A scalloped roofline defines this playful backyard studio, which Los Angeles architects Byben & Skeens completed for a writer and filmmaker to create a “lonely space for creation”.

The compact project replaces a dilapidated cabin in the steeply terraced backyard of a new homeowner in the Echo Park neighborhood of LA.

White stucco walls surround the small writing studio

“The previous owner decorated the back yard in a lyrical, antique style, with awkward, crumbling stairs winding up the hill and a handcrafted hut on the verge of collapse,” explained architects Byben & Skeens.

“Inspired by the quirky surroundings, the client wanted to replace it with a writing studio and guest house that is reminiscent of the past but is still contemporary.”

The building has arched openingsThe interiors are neutral, with color accents through textiles

The 45-square-foot building is clad in white stucco, with arched openings reminiscent of the Art Deco style found all over LA.

It contains a single room that the customer uses as a writing studio or occasional guest house, with a toilet on the back.

“In the west, a continuous skylight illuminates the room, the light is modulated and scattered by a curved wall that swings into the room below,” says Byben & Skeens.

Stiff tipsThe wooden frame windows and doors have arched tops

Two separate entrances lead into the building: one from the back yard, where large double doors open the interior space for the elements; the other from the street.

This allows the owner to invite customers or employees without having to go through the main house.

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The project makes optimal use of its steep location, which offers it a certain separation from the owner’s house below.

“The arched windows and doors avoid looking into the house in order to concentrate on the surrounding trees and the sky and create a feeling of escape and immersion in nature,” explained the architects

The slope also made it possible to build in theater-like seating outside the building’s double doors so that the owner could put on small plays in the courtyard or sit and work with rehearsing actors.

A raised wooden deckA deck with grandstand seating is installed on the roof

At the rear of the property, outside stairs lead to the roof which overlooks the house below and offers views of the LA skyline.

“A sun deck is delimited by the tips and arches of the building’s crown-like parapet,” the architects said. “Looking east, the deck has an intimate interior feel created by the speckled light from a tightly overhanging tree canopy, while to the south and west it offers clear views of downtown LA.”

Still Peaks from Byben & SkeensThe studio is located between the main house and the street and is accessible from both sides

Small buildings like this one, sometimes referred to as accessory homes (ADUs) when they contain a bathroom and kitchenette, have long been common in Los Angeles, where relatively large lots and high cost of living have driven demand for housing.

In recent years the trend has accelerated as the city provided incentives for homeowners to build these structures to provide more housing.

Arched openings in the studioA scalloped parapet towers above the additional residential unit, also known as ADU

Those working on replicable ADUs for LA include a startup called Cover, which uses proprietary software to create a design suitable for a specific location, and architects SO-IL, who unveiled a pre-made, flower-shaped design earlier this year .

The photography is by Taiyo Watanabe.

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